Southbury Teen Review Blog

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The Great Gatsby June 5, 2013

PG-13, 142 minutes, Warner Bros. Pictures, Village Roadshow

gatsby movieWhat’s that saying?  Everything old is new again?  Well, that’s certainly the case with The Great Gatsby.  The Roaring Twenties are hotter than ever – the music, the fashion, hairstyles – Leonardo DiCaprio and Carey Mulligan!  Baz Luhrmann, the director famous for movies like Romeo + Juliet and Moulin Rouge, has given us another visual masterpiece.

We all know the story of Jay Gatsby and his tragic rise and fall by know, right?  I’ll assume you do.  (I highly recommend you re-acquaint yourself with this classic if you don’t!)

Tobey Maguire is the perfect Nick Carraway, the fresh-faced narrator and witness to the escapades to come.  His cousin Daisy Buchanan is played by Carey Mulligan.  Her fragile beauty and breezy indifference add depth to this shallow character.  The real standout performances for me were Joel Edgerton as Tom Buchanan and Isla Fisher as Myrtle Wilson.

Fans of the 1974 Francis Ford Coppola version starring Robert Redford and Mia Farrow and a more genteel portrayal of Fitzgerald’s novel need not despair.  The 2013 version is different enough not to diminish its importance.  Luhrmann is famous for lavish spectacles and he does not disappoint.  The party scenes are a feast for the senses.  The true depth to the decadence of the times is felt more than in any other film adaptation.  Whether you’re a die-hard Fitzgerald fan or not, this one is a must see!

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The Diviners June 3, 2013

The Diviners by Libba Bray

the-divinersIt’s 1926.  The height of the Jazz Age.  Evie O”Neill arrives fresh from Ohio in NYC to live with her Uncle Will Fitzgerald.  He just happened to be curator of the Museum of American Folklore, Superstition, and the Occult (locally know as the Museum of the Creepy Crawlies).  Coincidentally, Uncle Will is consulting on the recent spate of serial murders  gripping the city.  Evie soon finds herself thrust in the midst of the investigations into the Pentagram Killer.

A varied cast of characters including Ziegfeld girl Theta Knight, Evie’s best friend Mabel Rose and erstwhile pickpocket Sam Lloyd all become embroiled in the supernatural goings on.  Memphis Campbell and his younger brother Isaiah possess certain gifts similar to Evie’s.  Uncle Will’s assistant Jericho Jones may be hiding secrets as well.  Can Evie and co. solve the mystery and put an end to the killings before Naughty John makes quick work of them all?

Filled with more nifty lingo than you can shake a stick at, The Diviners is the cat’s pajamas!  Libba Bray has done it again, masterfully blending insidious horror with hilarious moments, and a hint of romance.  Evie O’Neill is “pos-i-lutely” an instant classic heroine.

“Naughty John, Naughty John, does his work with his apron on.  Cuts your throat and takes your bones, sells ’em off for a coupla stones.”

 

The Great Gatsby

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

great gatsby bookOften called “the Great American Novel,” F. Scott Fitzgerald‘s The Great Gatsby has been popular since first published in 1925.  An instant hit with the flappers and philosophers of the Jazz Age, the story struck a cord and the reverberations are still felt today as the title appears on countless reading lists and is now a getting the star treatment from director Baz Luhrmann.

The tale is narrated by Nick Carraway, a young man fresh from Yale and World War I, as he moves East to be a bond trader on Wall Street.  Renting a tiny cottage in West Egg, Long Island, Nick finds himself neighbors with the mysterious Jay Gatsby.  Next door Nick is witness to decadent and lavish parties held at Gatsby’s immense mansion.  Across the bay from Gatsby’s, a green light blinks on a dock on old monied East Egg.  This happens to be the home of Nick’s cousin Daisy Buchanan and her philandering husband Tom.

Naive Nick quickly becomes embroiled in the exploits of the super wealthy, complete with trips to NYC, gangsters, and socialites.  Tom takes Nick to meet his mistress, Myrtle Wilson, wife of poor mechanic George.  They reside in the “valley of the ashes” between Long Island and New York City.  This depressed and destitute border town is watched over by the eyes of Dr. T J Eckleburg, a billboard and silent witness of events to come.

Nick is then invited to one of Gatsby’s parties.  Here he encounters Daisy’s friend Jordan Baker and finally meets the Jay Gatsby.  Later, Nick learns that Gatsby and Daisy were sweethearts before the war.  Separated by distance and social status, Daisy eventually married Tom instead.  Now, Gatsby wants Nick’s help in reuniting with Daisy.

Events come to a head when the five travel to the Plaza Hotel in the city.  Gatsby urges Daisy to confront Tom and tell him she never loved him.  Tom counters with questions about Gatsby’s dubious origins and the real source of his millions.  Unable to commit to Gatsby, Daisy wants to leave.  Tom sends them home together as he, Nick and Jordan follow in another car.  While speeding through the “valley of the ashes,” Daisy hits and kills Myrtle.  Gatsby takes responsibility for the accident, trying to cover up the evidence.  When Tom finds a distraught George Wilson at the scene of the accident, he tells him it was Gatsby in the yellow car.

Nick leaves Gatsby as he waits in vain for Daisy to change her mind.  Taking a dip in the luxurious swimming pool he’s never used, Gatsby is shot to death by a vengeful George Wilson, who then takes his own life.  Myrtle’s death and adultery is attributed to Gatsby.  Daisy and Tom flee to Chicago, heedless of the destruction left in their wake.  Nick remains to make arrangements for his deceased friend.  Only Gatsby’s father, the stranger known as Owl Eyes and Nick are mourners at the funeral.

The Great Gatsby‘s themes are timeless and universal.  The desire to achieve and accumulate doesn’t make you happy.  You can’t buy love or friendship.  You can look to the past, but rarely recapture those moments.  As powerful as it was almost 90 years ago, F. Scott Fitzgerald‘s The Great Gatsby is just a relevant today.

“So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”

 

Vixen by Jillian Larkin February 13, 2013

vixen

It’s the roaring 20’s.  The jazz is smooth, the hair is bobbed, the dresses are short, the liquor is bootleg and the nights are long.  Al Capone and the mob rule Chicago.  A few steps away from the speakeasies and jazz halls resides seventeen-year-old Gloria Carmody.  Glo, to her friends, is enamored by the flapper lifestyle.  But the party’s over now that she’s engaged to high society elite Sebastian Grey.

To ensure Gloria stays on the straight and narrow, her cousin Clara Knowles has been brought in from New York.  “Country Clara” isn’t as innocent as she seems.  You see Clara was a fixture of the NYC scene way before Glo bobbed her hair.  Now she’s been sent to Chicago to straighten up.  This is Clara’s second chance and she intends to not make the same mistakes twice.

Gloria won’t find it easy to settle down.  She aspires to be a jazz singer, and she’s actually pretty good.  To confuse matter more, she’s falling for one of the musicians at the club.  But not only is she engaged to someone else, Jerome is African-American (remember this is the 20’s!)

Jillian Larkin has successfully given us a brilliant debut with Vixen.  This first book in The Flappers series delivers.  The characters and storyline immediately hooked me.  The ending will have you wanting more.  I can’t wait so find out what happens next.  I guess I’ll have to read the next installments in the trilogy, Ingenue and Diva.

 

Beautiful Days: Bright Young Things #2 by Anna Godbersen

beautiful days

Beautiful Dayscontinues right where Bright Young Things left off.  Cordelia Gray and Letty Larkspur have shed their former images of small town girls and embraced the city life of the roaring twenties.  After reuniting with her long-lost father, Darius Gray, Cordelia discovers his wealth is the result of criminal behavior.  Also profiting from those bootleg bucks is Cordelia’s half-brother Charlie.  Welcomed by Astrid, Charlie’s fiancée, Cordelia and Letty become accustomed to this lavish lifestyle

Tragically, Cordelia’s father is shot.  Killed by Thom Hale, son of Gray’s rival and object of Cordelia’s affection.  Charlie, Cordelia’s erstwhile brother is now in charge of the family business.  Flapper Astrid has settled into the estate in Long Island but may be having second thoughts about the future.  Letty Larkspur is pursuing a career on Broadway with renewed fervor.  Misadventure continues to plague our trio of beauties as the decade comes to a close.

The saga continues with The Lucky Ones, the third book in the Bright Young Things series by Anna Godbersen.

 

Bright Young Things by Anna Godbersen

Bright Young Things

1929. New York City. Two girls from rural Ohio arrive in the big city. Letitia Haubstadt and Cordelia Grey are ready to leave behind the only lives they’ve known in search of new glamorous ones. Letitia, dreaming of making it big on Broadway, reinvents herself as Letty Larkspur. Cordelia is searching for her long-lost father, who just happens to be millionaire bootlegger, Darius Grey. Parting ways, the girls follow their own paths towards the inevitable lure of flappers and philosophers, speakeasies and the stage. Cordelia is immediately welcomed at Dogwood, her father’s estate. Here she meets her half-brother Charlie and is befriended by his stunningly beautiful socialite girlfriend, Astrid Donal. Exemplifying this luxurious lifestyle, Astrid takes Cordelia under her wing as she learns to navigate life as a wealthy criminal’s daughter.

But all that glitters is not gold. Letty soon learns it takes more than talent to make it as a singer. Cordelia becomes enamored with the son of her father’s rival. And Astrid’s home life is far from charmed. The three girls soon realize there’s more to life than champagne and the Charleston.

The author of The Luxe series is back with the first installment in what promises to be another enthralling series set in yesterday’s New York City. Reminiscent of F. Scott Fitzgerald with a hint of Gossip Girl, Godbersen captures the carefree excess of New York in the roaring twenties.  Look for other titles in the Bright Young Things series.